BY MOSES MATENGA/VANNESA GONYE /PHYLLIS MBANJE
VICE-PRESIDENT and Health minister Constantino Chiwenga has defended the continued defiance of COVID-19 regulations by ministers at a time when the government has put in place a strict COVID-19 measures.
While Chiwenga on Saturday announced a ban on gatherings, churches, sports and music, some ministers have been wantonly breaking COVID-19 regulations by throwing parties and holding meetings without following World Health Organisation (WHO) protocols to curb the spread of the respiratory disease.
The country has experienced a surge in COVID-19 cases in the last seven days with 596 cases having been recorded and 26 deaths and Chiwenga has blamed ordinary Zimbabweans of being complacent.
However, the ruling Zanu PF party has been holding events at which with hundreds of people gathered.
Recently, Industry and Commerce minister Sekai Nzenza and senior officials from her office posed for pictures with delegates from India, a COVID-19 hotspot, without wearing face masks and without observing social distancing.
In response to questions from NewsDay on why some ministers are not observing COVID-19 protocols, Chiwenga said: ”You have seen people without masks when we go for photo shoots. We take off masks during that time. I don’t think that is being irresponsible.”
In new measures announced on Saturday, Chiwenga blamed ordinary citizens, saying that their “general complacency had led to a sudden spike in COVID-19 cases and was exposing the country to a third wave”.
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“Sadly, it has been noted that there has been a general complacency in adhering to the preventive measures both in communities and at workplaces.”
However, former Health minister Henry Madzorera described government as “hypocrites” for defending the reckless behaviour of senior government officials at a time when the country is staring at the third wave.
“They are hypocrites. They don’t follow their own rules and you will see that at funerals. You noticed the complacency exhibited during the unveiling of the Mbuya Nehanda statue.
“We said people coming from India should be quarantined for 10 days, but the delegation just came in, there was no quarantine, they posed for pictures, there were no precautions taken,” Madzorera said.
Community Working Group on Health executive director Itai Rusike said government should engage in wide consultations before announcing COVID-19 regulations as they might be unfriendly to a majority of Zimbabweans.
“It is important for the government to consult before taking these measures because they have some disastrous economic consequences for the majority of Zimbabweans,” Rusike said.
Restaurant Operators Association of Zimbabwe president Bongai Zamchiya said: “We have been and remain in full support of efforts to curb the spread of COVID-19, but we are now at a crossroads and require a collective rethink.
“Contrary to a common misperception, well-run restaurants are not venues for spreading COVID-19, but are hygienic in concept and operation, posing little if any threat to customers, certainly no greater than any other business or home environment.”
Zamchiya said 75% of restaurant staff was vaccinated, adding that they were observing social distancing and hand-washing as prescribed by the law.
“Restaurants have been either closed or in partial operation for the past 14 months and many have closed permanently, while those remaining face financial ruin and closure,” Zamchiya said.
Meanwhile, as COVID-19 cases surge, one of the country’s largest health insurance providers, Premier Service Medical Investments (PSMI) has set up a COVID-19 stabilisation and treatment centre, as part of its initiative to complement government efforts in containing the devastating effects of the pandemic.
“The PSMI COVID-19 stabilisation and treatment centre will provide acute observation of those clients with mild to moderate symptoms of COVID-19 in preparation for continued care at home once stabilised and in line with the Health ministry and WHO guidelines as a haven for those who will be affected by the third wave by addressing some areas of the unmatched COVID-19 management gap,” PSMI said in a statement.
It said the facility would be an 11-bed clinic, which would be manned by trained staff and on-call doctors to manage complicated cases.
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